This post originally appeared in makememphis.org
Within the past few months, three acquaintances of mine have sent me messages on Facebook, asking for advice on how to deal with a domestic abuse situation they’ve found themselves in. On the bright side, they’d left the person. But they now needed resources to get back on their feet as a single parent, advice on how to get expensive medical bills paid after being seriously injured, legal direction on how to get through court, and to find counseling for themselves and the children involved.
The reason they messaged me is because I've been fairly public about the domestic abuse I experienced about 2 years ago. The experience ended a 3-year relationship with someone I thought loved me, someone I thought I could “fix.” Years of verbal and emotional abuse, mixed with pushing, shoving, grabbing, and being held down against my will reached its final chapter when, in his own words, “I punched you out of my life.”
While in the relationship, I adopted the mantra, “Every day is a new day,” just so I could fall asleep at night and then pull myself out of bed in the morning. I could barely focus on things that made me happy, like my child, working with animals, and writing music. I felt like everything I did was wrong or not good enough. I didn’t trust him. But even though the lows were very low, the highs were oh, so high. So I stayed.
And when he’d threaten to end it, we would always “make up” by the next day.
It’s perfectly clear to me now that he never loved me, much less liked me. But we settled, perhaps, for those highs, while he waited for the next girl to come along to replace me.
After he beat me up, I decided it was too much this time, and he was arrested and charged with domestic assault. He went to anger management classes, performed community work, and was instructed to seek therapy. Once he attained what was requested of him, the domestic assault charge was erased from his record, labeled as a “first offense.” To the public, and in the eyes of the law, this person is no longer, legally, seen as a criminal.
I’d become temporarily homeless and was threatened to be fired at work for not being as efficient. I lost “friends” who stood by him, even though I clearly had physical proof of the abuse, a restraining order, and displayed extremely out-of-character behavior. I’m usually quiet, but social and friendly. For months, my anger, anxiety, depression, and resentment held a lot of power over me. People who don’t know me just saw it as the reason he beat me up, rather than the result of him beating me.
I gathered a lot of people thought I was exaggerating, lying, or maybe that I did something to deserve it.
The most heartbreaking part was the blind eye people turned to the situation, pretending it didn’t happen so they may go on living their lives, especially where it involved him. In a way, my life stopped for a while and his went on. My injuries were much worse than a black eye and a bruised up body. Forgiveness wasn’t the problem. I was just broken.
It took months for me to figure out it wasn’t my fault. I drank too much, went out as much as possible to drown out the emotional pain of losing the battle against myself that I could make that relationship work, even if I was miserable. I had nightmares and flashbacks, anxiety attacks when I saw him in the limelight.
However, over time, with the aid of therapy, amazing friends, and selfless strangers, I’m reaching growth, health, and a point of strength where I look forward and seek peace in truth. For months, I was drowning in self-pity, lost in self-doubt, and looking for answers in other things when they have always been right here, in my heart and self-worth. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Often, there is trial and error. And I strongly believe that you don’t have to do this alone.
I’ve recently formed a network called the Memphis Domestic Abuse Support Group. The first in-person meeting is next Wednesday at 7PM. Join our FB group at the link above for more details.
This group is for both women and men struggling with domestic abuse, either currently or from a past relationship. This is a safe place where you can share your experiences and know that you are not alone, that there are people in this town that truly want to help. Meetings will be held confidentially and will be guided with easy-going activities and discussions. If you need help healing or getting to a better place, physically, mentally, and spiritually, this is the place for you. No judgment, only sympathetic ears and guidance. There will be resources provided as needed and desired.
Nothing is black-and-white or cookie-cutter in abusive situations.
Joining the group on the Facebook page is also a safe place where we encourage discussion, expression, and inspiration. Anyone can message me questions directly if they need advice or simply encouragement. We can explain how to go about getting things done safely with resources the City of Memphis does provide. I don’t want anyone to feel like their situation isn’t severe enough or is too embarrassing to do anything about it. That is the first hurdle that most people struggle with. I remember how difficult it was to leave. It takes strength to move on. And life does get better when you do.I, together with a group of strong people who have survived the war of domestic violence and abuse, can help those who need motivation and help now. Most importantly, I hope to bring awareness to our community about this social illness and to encourage people not to ignore the victims, but to help them.
Jerica Burgette is an ICU pet nurse at Memphis Veterinary Specialists, is a foster mom for geriatric dogs from the local rescue, Sunny Meadows, and has also adopted 2 stray cats, Heidi and Dude. While she has an interest in finding homes for surrendered animals, her pride and joy is her son, Rowan. She is a singer-songwriter and enjoys playing euphonium, guitar, and piano.
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